Thursday, July 4, 2013

What we mean when we say we're against feminism

I'm writing this from my own perspective, but the views I share here are commonly held by Westerners who reject feminism. Too often I hear feminists dismiss their critics as misogynists and woman-haters and I wanted to show where we're really coming from.

Three years ago I wrote about a concept I have dubbed the feminist shell game:

There's a popular bumper sticker that reads "Feminism is the radical notion that women are people." And that was certainly true - a century ago. It's been several generations since the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote in America. Laws designed to give women less rights - such as restrictions on property - are gone.

When someone criticizes modern feminists, such as their activism promoting the mythical gender wage gap, petty diversity micromanaging, embrace of speech codes and overzealous sexual harassment rules or hypersensitivity to reasonable stances, that critic is dismissed as opposing feminists from past generations, along with women's right to vote. That's wrong. Just because I am against campus feminists who oppose freedom of speech doesn't mean I oppose laws that allow women to own property.

A bisexist society

Someone did a decent jobcof laying out their stance on the Finally, a Feminism 101 Blog. Here's an important point they made:

One of the reasons why feminists are said to be sexist towards men is because we focus on, and privilege, the female point of view... No one is saying that discussions on men and masculinities shouldn’t go on. It is absolutely important to have dialogue on men’s issues, including discussions on violence done towards men. But, the thing is, men, not women, need to be the ones creating the spaces to discuss men’s issues.

Yet, whenever anyone tries to address issues like male victims of domestic violence, false rape accusations, male disposability, male suicide rates or slanted divorce courts it is the feminists who shout them down. They justify this by saying that the totality of problems women face in the world are worse than those faced by men.

Well so what? By that logic feminists should stop focusing on American issues because ending female genital mutilation in poor countries is clearly more important than how women are portrayed in video games. Yet, they don't take this stance for reasons that the feminism 101 blog convincingly spelled out.

The false idea that men's problems don't count because women are brutalized by men assumes that believing in men's and women's issues is mutually exclusive. This is sloppy reasoning. Men's rights leader Warren Farrell sidestepped this useless debate by declaring that human society is "bisexist," where society unfairly treats both genders in different ways simultaneously.

Don't judge a group by the crazies

Unfortunately, mainstream feminists have taken a stance against men's rights advocates and dismiss anyone who advocates for men's rights as a misogynist. Helping this argument is a project from the Southern Poverty Law Center to dismiss the entire men's rights movement as the work of sexists. They "proved" this point by highlighting some genuinely repulsive, bitter, people who are online advocates for men's rights.

But what does this prove? Finding ignorant people online is like finding diabetes at a house of pancakes. It's dead simple to find examples of crazy feminists who say outrageous things, such as last months demand from a Swedish left-wing political party that men be required to urinate while sitting down. Online feminism is no shining star of rationality and calm reason. Every group has crazies and it shouldn't be used to disprove the mainstream members.

But what's troubling is the amount of radical feminists who get in positions of power and influence, most notably as academics. This allows some bogus ideas to perpetuate among mainstream feminists. While it is a complete lie to say that feminists believe all intercourse is rape, the popular concept of "rape culture" isn't any better. This is the idea that contemporary modern society tolerates, excuses and even encourages rape. Someone has to live in a dark fantasy world to think that. A similar idea is that most men would commit a rape if they knew they could get away with it.

There is also the idea of "the patriarchy" which can best be explained as the status quo that benefits men over women. This is invoked as a bottomless well where feminists can pull explanations for any disparity, difference or inequality between genders, even ones where men are made worse off such as military drafts.

I'm going to clarify that all of the problems men face do not come from feminism. Men are afraid to reveal themselves as domestic violence victims to other men because of universal norms that predate feminism. Women may get child custody in a divorce more often because they are the ones who get to spend more time with the children and men often agree to let them have sole custody. While it's disturbing that Lorena Bobbitt was treated as a folk hero for castrating her sleeping husband, that came from the culture at large and not just feminists.

Perhaps if feminists tempered their patriarchy theory with elements that acknowledged bisexism we would end up with a reasonable position. But then we couldn't call it "patriarchy."

Bad advice

There's a trend right now that the problem of rape needs to be combated by teaching men "Don't Rape" and hoping and praying that rapists will all retire. This same movement finds it offensive to empower women by sharing self-defense strategies.

I've already written about this before so instead of rehashing that argument I'm going to add a new one.

What is being labeled as "date rape" often involves a miscommunication where the man thinks they had consensual sex and the woman thinks she was raped. Here's the scenario. The couple fools around to the enjoyment of both partners. The man steers this encounter into sexual intercourse. The woman would rather not, but she says nothing and goes along with it because she feels intimidated. She later recalls the incident as being raped.

It's good to alert men of this scenario and request that they communicate clearly with their partner to ensure eagerness. I stop short of saying that it is automatically rape unless he gets verbal permission, which is the "consent" rule advocated by feminists. That assumes that all sex is rape until proven otherwise. We don't have to put men on the defensive when we inform them of this scenario, but if it's as common as feminists claim it is then by all means make men aware.

However, we also need to bookend this by alerting women of the same scenario and telling them that they need to communicate that they do not wish to proceed. Let her tell her partner that not stopping would be rape. If he doesn't understand, make it clear and attempt to leave. This would prevent rape, but it is feminist dogma that makes it off-limits.

Fluid language

Modern feminism is adapt at redefining words, such as rape and sexism, to exaggerate. My favorite example was a speech class in college where my professor told us not to use "sexist language" like "waitress" because it denotes the workers gender.

Terms like "sexist" and "misogynist" are flung freely and often because if they stick they destroy their target's credibility. I can't support a movement that tolerates such lackadaisical and petty bomb-throwing the way feminism does.

My point with this piece is not to disprove feminism, produce an exhaustive list convert feminists or try to take away the important gains feminists have made. Instead, I wanted to provide a response to people who assume that the opponents of modern feminism hate women or oppose gender equality. You may disagree with us, but you should try to understand what we really believe.

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